The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

What we give up for the hot cocoa and the ease

Growing up in Ethiopia as an outside girl gave me the most fascinating things to look at and wonder about and worry about.

A lot of life in Ethiopia gets lived outside.  People do drive around in cars and buses, of course, but an awful lot of them spend more time traveling in ways that make the sights and sounds and smells of the earth more vivid and real than when I travel around the United States.  Convenience and comfort don’t always = good writing details and they don’t always = a sensation of being present to life, either.

In Ethiopia, a traveler meets so many other interesting people on the path.  Every time we went outside of the city and stopped, the kids gathered.  Even a spot that seemed silent and private only seconds before, could fill up with children seriously fast. 

Sometimes when I’m walking in the United States, I see utterly nobody the whole time, and I wonder where everybody is.

They might be inside, where it’s cozy.  Lots of great things happen inside…writing retreats with wonderful friends and tea parties with grandchildren and reading and conversations.  Lovely things await those of us with inside genes!

After all, the outside world can be drippy and chily and steamy and all around uncomfortable.

Still, when I get outside, I’m always glad that my dad’s outside genes got into me enough that I walk almost every day. 

All the fuzz and mist and sparkle and brown bark and soft leaves of Portland, this month, made my heart glad even when my feet were wet.

Ah, the mystery…

the spooky glory…

the whispery-ness of that fall day.

  This weekend, I was on the other side of the continent, sharing stories with the brave writers who are part of my annual retreat.  Look what I would have missed if I hadn’t walked.

Lanie (the doll) won’t be around next fall.  Lanie the book character will, though.  She will be my ambassador to say, “Get out there!  Open your eyes.”

Put on your boots.

Get out your binoculars.

Slow down enough to notice what’s right in front of your nose and eyes.

And don’t forget to listen to the thoughts and feelings and stories that are bubbling up inside of you.

It’s all right there for the taking.

4 thoughts on “What we give up for the hot cocoa and the ease”

  1. Thanks. Through watching my photographer son, I’m struck by how various art forms are both a way for us to pay better attention and a way to share our innards (our vision, our insights) with other people. No wonder people everywhere and in every circumstance make art, eh?

  2. Jane, I’ve always admired how visual your author presentations are, and how nicely you weave together words and visuals. So I’m not surprised to see the same here on your blog, too. Like you, I appreciate visual stories too, and sometimes, a picture really can say more than 1,000 words. Of course, we’ll always love our words, but I love capturing glimpses of the world through the camera, and better yet, sharing them with others. See, this blogging has yet another thing going for it. 🙂


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